Range is one of the most important concepts in poker. What is range in poker, then? Basically, range means the hands you choose to play pre-flop. You should have a range for the hands you open raise with, call with and 3-bet with from each table position. In tournament poker, you also need a different range for different stack sizes. Just having a “common range” does not work in MTT poker. Sounds complicated? At first, it can be. But when you define your range, playing poker will get much easier.
Know Your Range.
Have you ever wondered whether you should bet or fold with a certain hand? Do you often find you´re not quite sure what to do on the table? Maybe you´re not sure what your range is. If you do n´t know what your own range is, chances are you don´t know what your opponent´s range is either. That is a good reason to define your range. Making decisions will get much easier, and you will have a much better idea about your opponent´s range as well.
Balance Your Range.
When you are building your range, you need to remember your range needs to be balanced. This means your range needs to have all kinds of hands, so you can represent you have hit the board on different kinds of flops.
Balancing your range means you need to open raise, call and 3-bet with different kinds of hands, so that your opponents ca n´t easily know your hand. If you only 3-bet with premium hands, your opponents can easily figure out you have the nuts and fold to your 3-bet. That´s why you should 3-bet with different kinds of hands, not only the premium hands.
A balanced range has pairs, Broadway cards and suited connectors; not only pairs and Broadway cards, for example. If we do n´t have hands like 98s in our range, we ca n´t represent any hand on a flop with only cards smaller than Broadway cards.
Know Your Opponent´s Range.
Even more important than knowing your own range, is defining your opponent´s range. It is essential to put your opponent on a range of hands. Many beginning poker players fail to do this, and just think about their own cards. Neither should you put your opponent on one particular hand, but a range of hands.
Pre-flop you can estimate your opponent´s range according to his or her position. If your opponent is capable of making decisions based on table position, his or her range of hands is tighter if he or she is playing from an early position. If you are playing online and use Poker Tracker or Hold´Em Manager, you can actually check your opponents stats to see how many hands he or she is playing from each position. Then you can estimate which hands they would be.
For example, if your opponent open raises 75% of hands on the button, these hands are likely to be the best 75% of hands. That´s a lot of hands, but if the players on the blinds are tight, you can actually open raise 75% of hands on the button to steal the blinds.
You can also define your opponent´s range based on whether they open raised, limped, called or 3-bet their hand. Good players use the same bet size with all hands they play, but many bad players bet more when they have a strong hand. For example, if there is a player who normally bets 2 big blinds, and then he or she suddenly bets 5 big blinds, it is usually a sign that player has the nuts.
You should also pay attention to your opponent´s stack size in order to define his or her range. It is quite common, that many weak players, especially the tight weak players, min raise with nuts when they are short-stacked. For example, a player with 10 big blinds raises 2 big blinds from UTG. Usually a player who does this has the nuts, and he or she is hoping, obviously, that someone will make a 3-bet. This is not a very good strategy, because other players usually just fold since the min raiser is practically turning pocket aces face up by min raising with a 10 big blind stack.
Post-flop you can narrow down your opponent´s range based on his or her actions. You can also estimate how strong your hand is against your opponent´s range.
Let´s say the player who raises 75% of hands on the button, if there is no action before the button, raises on the button again. We are on the big blind and call with Q ♥ J ♥.
The flop comes 3 ♣ Q ♠ 4 ♦.
Against the button´s loose raising range, our hand is a huge favorite on this flop. We have 80% equity against the button.
Let´s think about the same situation, but now the raiser would be the lowjack (the fourth player to act pre-flop) with a tight range. The lowjack opens 10% of hands.
We have Q ♥ J ♥ again.
The flop is also the same as in the previous example, 3 ♣ Q ♠ 4 ♦.
Are we still ahead against this tight player?
Yes, against the lowjack´s range we have 63% equity on this flop with our hand.
Position, Position, Position
Table position is so important in poker, that it should affect all your decisions, including the hands you play with. You want to play in position, so in a late position you can play more hands, and in an early position you can play fewer hands. That is why you need a different range for each table position.
Tight Or Loose?
Most poker players naturally gravitate to a tight or loose range according to their personality. I don´t know if it has anything to do with my Asperger´s syndrome, but I´ve always been a tight player. Actually I´m too tight, since the standard play has become looser and looser over the years. Now I´m loosening my range, because I know I often play too tight.
You also need to adjust your range to the table you´re playing at, and the opponents you play against. On a loose table you need to play tighter and vice versa. On the tournaments I play at the moment, the opponents tend to be overly loose, so I can´t actually play as loose as the standard play is in today´s games. When I´ll move up in stakes, I will have to adjust, but for now I need to loosen my range just a bit.
Understanding Range Improves Your Game Massively.
I hope you now have a better idea, what is range in poker. Balance your own range by open raising, calling and 3-betting with different kinds of hands. Start thinking about your opponent´s range in each hand you play. Poker pros always think about their opponent´s range, and applying this way of thinking to your game will improve your results massively. You will also find it easier to make decisions at the table.
You need to adjust your range according to the table you play at, your table position and in poker tournaments, your stack size and your opponent´s stack size. I will talk about playing different stack sizes more in future posts, and ranges for different stack sizes will also be covered in those posts.
Have you had any problems knowing your own range or your opponent´s range? Do you find your range to be more on a tight or a loose side?